Jul 13, 2009
The loss of Freddie Hubbard last year was deeply felt in the jazz world, even more so since the noted trumpeter had just begun a return to playing music after the forced silence of lip-damage. While that album was acceptable, the newly found recordings from 1969 dates in England and Germany released by Blue Note as Without A Song - Live in Europe 1969, remind us of why Freddie was so important.
Although forty years old, the recordings show improvisational jazz played at the highest level. The band is nothing short of sensational - the often underrated Sir Roland Hanna on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. Hanna lends a certain darkness to much of the moods, playing complex chords before opening up for scintillating solos, often reminiscent of Thelonius Monk. Hayes' cymbal work is particularly notable, and Carter is - well, Ron Carter at his best.
Hubbard, who at one time was seen as one of the logical successors to Miles Davis as a straght-ahead jazz trumpeter, is uniformly great. "Body and Soul" comes across as a great balad, but there is room for more than afew Hubbard solos taken at lightning speed. The opening "Without A Song" is similarly fine. Hubbard could take a familar tune and spin in into something exciting, and this is a great example of that skill.
Click here to listen to the closing "Hub-Tones", one of Freddie's signature tunes. Hayes kicks it off with a short drum solo, before Hubbard comes blazing in. From there its a group triumph, with Carter and Hanna seemily competing for space, as Hubbard plays with speed, feeling and excitement. By the time Hayes stretches out for another solo, there's a sense that everyone needed to come up for air. And then its off to the races again, as Hubbard takes the tune home.
Freddie, we'll miss you. And with this CD of music seeing the light of day, we'll always be able to remember why.